It’s early Sunday morning at the hospice. Clarence and I are sipping coffee in the kitchen (well, actually I’m sipping coffee and Clarence is snoozing on the floor next to me) waiting to meet our new resident . I flip through his chart to get to know him. He’s about my age (a few years younger), he’s fairly independent (although a bit unsteady on his feet), he’s coming from an extended hospital stay (nearly three months) and now he needs *us*. He’ll be with us for (maybe) a few weeks.
He shuffles into the kitchen with his laptop balanced across the top of his walker. We exchange hellos, pour a few cups of coffee, look at pics of his life on his laptop and spend an hour laughing like old friends. It’s just a day. The conversation turns to breakfast….
“I’d really like a diner breakfast”
“I can do that, no problem. What would you like?”
“No, I want to go to a diner”
He has a mischievous twinkle in his eye that I can’t resist.
I don’t know which one of us is more surprised when I blurt “Okay, let’s go!”
A handful of phone calls later and we’ve got everything we need to hit the road. My mom brings over a heavier coat for him and takes Clarence home with her. Our director talks me through everything I need to take with us. I’ve got his pain meds in my pocket and his DNR in my purse. What could go wrong?
He seems entertained by my dorky sense of humor and matches me joke for joke as we head to the diner. I’m determined to treat him normally – paying no attention to his physical limitations or his terminal illness. We’re just a couple of friends heading out to breakfast on a Sunday – it’s just a day. We’re genuinely having fun.
He takes what seems like f o r e v e r to decide what to order for breakfast. Our waitress is endlessly patient and appears oblivious to the growing line of people waiting for tables. The three of us discuss the fact that he’s at a point in his life where he really doesn’t have to choose between delights. Get the pancakes and the omelet and the hashbrowns and the waffle and the french toast. Live big. Enjoy the day. So we do. We cover the table in diner breakfast delights. He’s ecstatic. He eats about 4 bites and announces “I need to go to Wegmans”.
ohmygod. I panic. There is no way his frail body can do a trip to Wegmans. No way. The trip to the diner is fun – but Wegmans? That’s just crazy. NO WAY. Absolutely NO WAY this is happening today. I’ll get a list from him, drop him back off at the hospice with the mid-day volunteer, then run the errand for him.
“I just want to go up and down every aisle and look at everything”
10 minutes later we’re in the car on our way to Wegmans. So much for NO WAY this is happening today…
I’m passed panic well into terror. This is a really bad idea. He looks exhausted after the trip to the diner. I tell him I’d feel a lot better if he would agree to use a motorized cart instead of his walker. He says we both should get one so we can drag race. This dude is straight up mischief. His eyes twinkle with life.
He cruises up and down the aisles at Wegmans with me standing on the back of the cart hanging on to his shoulders. We’re on a motorcycle ride through life. We giggle and stop at every sample station. Today is delicious – totally and completely delicious. It’s just a day.
For both of us.
We get back to the car and he falls asleep as soon as he buckles his seatbelt. He’s smiling.
We pull up to the house and he’s too weak to walk back in. He tries to stand up to get out of the car and collapses back into the seat. He’s still smiling. Its been a good day.
We get him inside and settled into bed – he’s beyond exhausted after our 4 hour adventure. He whispers “thank you” and “will you come back tomorrow”. I assure him I’ll swing by on Monday to check in.
I leave smiling and thinking I’ve laughed more today than I’ve laughed in the last few months. It was just a day – just an ordinary, delicious, silly, life-filled day.
What a gift.
For both of us.